We certainly rang the new year in with panache. And when I say "panache," I mean about five hours of hockey. Yes, a mere 90 minutes after watching Team Canada athletically stick it to the Warsaw Pact and its former member, we were on our way back to Fargo to take in the first Jets game of 2005. And it was a landmark experience for me because not only was this the first time I saw both international hockey and interstate hockey in the same day, but it was the first time that I had seen the Helena Bighorns.
The Bighorns were in first place the night of this game, one of the teams in the previously mentioned first-place gaggle with the Jets, Minnesota, and Billings. Having already defeated them on New Year's Eve, the Jets were looking forward to putting away a team that I'm sure was tired of being in frigid Fargo for three straight days.
Perhaps the reason that the rest of the people were there was for a neat little promotion that the Jets were calling "Guaranteed Win Night." The idea was that if the Jets lost, everyone in the crowd would get free tickets to another game. Not bad, but the idea should be tweaked for next time so that everyone gets free tickets if the Jets win. This way I can fully support the Jets without the six dollars in my wallet asking what the hell I I think I'm doing.
Even better than THAT idea should have been to rechristen this as DIE-HARD NIGHT. On a night that was -15 degrees outside, I think the team should have shaken our hands and given us all a free pass for later. Then again, if we were in the building already for this game, they probably figured we were all dumb enough to keep coming back without having to be bribed.
It had an interesting feel. After seeing the best junior players in the world playing in one of the nicest buildings in the world, it was curiously refreshing to return to the best hockey players in Cass County playing in the best hockey facility on 10th Street. (Yeah, it's even nicer than the Curling Club.) It felt very "Sunday Night" in the crowd and Dan pointed out that the night was even topped off with a ridiculous referee.
The Detox Section was pretty relaxed on this night, but it did manage to push itself here:
The reason for this is because the late Dimebag Darrell (or a large man resembling him) decided to ride a poor forward named Scott Tittle. It was a roller-coaster ride of heckling. It started off being pretty amusing with Dimebag sing-songing "Tiiiiiiitttttle!!" every time his line came on for a shift. By the end of the first period, though, this routine was getting pretty old.
Luckily for him, his buddies picked up the slack. The resurgence began when one of his buddies reached his hand over the glass on the way back from the beer garden and yelled "Give me five, Tittle!" Soon enough, they were all throwing out their best puns ("Just a Tittle bit more!") What started as being funny, had degenerated into being utterly obnoxious, and finally went through a renaissance that brought it back to respectability. I couldn't help but feel bad for the poor guy but then again, if having six drunk people in Fargo, North Dakota ride him for a couple hours is the worst thing that ever happens to him, he'll have had the second-best life in the history of the world (right behind Chuck Norris. Don't ask why.)
Another thing that definitely stuck out about the Bighorns, besides the poor whipping boy wearing number eleven, was their hideous uniforms. Take a look for yourself. (I'm not responsible for any vomit that ends up on your keyboard and/or monitor. Please contact Dan Marino with complaints)
Questionable fashion aside, the game was well-played. It was easy to see that these were two of the better teams in the league. After jumping out to a 1-0 lead, Helena had a flurry where the puck was just about across the goal line when Jets defenseman Todd Alexander cleared it away. Neither the goal judge nor his cowboy hat turned on the goal light, and this appeared to be the correct decision. But Luigi came storming in signalling goal, even though I doubt he saw anything between his view from the penalty box and his burning hatred for King Koopa. In any case, the goal was allowed and it appeared that we had a game on our hands.
Not a chance.
The Jets, riding the hot-hand of new acquisition Matt Moreland, pulled away. Chris Myhro, a guy streakier than Ray Stevens, continued his recent torrid spell and put home a goal of his own. It ended up being a satisfying 5-2 victory for the Jets that was witnessed by few, enjoyed by all, but still left us with the burden of having to pay to attend the next game.